[art by ninebreaker]
Virginity doesn’t exist.
There are men, women, trans* people, who have not had sex, and there are all sorts of people who have had sex, but the difference between the two is entirely socially constructed and is based not on physical changes, but on culture, tradition, and religion. All of that is a little bit beside the point for today’s post, though– there’s books to be written on that subject, and I don’t really want to get into that discussion today.
What I do want to talk about today is the physical reality that virginity is entirely made up. And this is awesome for one spectacularly fantastic reason:
There’s no earthly reason why having sex the first time should hurt.
Growing up, in a home where my parents were not exactly prudish and my mother was comfortable talking about how fantastic sex was, I was still simultaneously receiving messages from the evangelical purity culture and American culture in general. The universal consensus that I heard repeated from every single mouth that ever talked about it was that losing your virginity hurts. I even knew why– it was because virgins have a hymen, and non-virgins don’t. Any one who has a vagina (woman and trans persons) and who has had some form of penetrative sex had their “cherry popped.” Their hymen was “broken,” and therefore gone.
Most of the teenagers I talked to, when we talked about our “wedding nights,” would focus on how much it was going to hurt, and how we would have to decide with our betrothed if we even had sex on the first night, or put it off for days, weeks– even months, in some cases. We were all terrified of having sex. We were scared of the pain, we were scared of being sore and having to “walk funny”– cluing people in to the fact that we’d lost our virginity in the night. We were scared of the blood. We were scared of how people’s perceptions would change once we were no longer a virgin. It was a monumental change– a drastic transformation that would render us unrecognizable.
I didn’t realize that all of that nonsense is categorically false.
The hymen doesn’t “break.” It is not “popped.” If you experience anything besides an slightly uncomfortable stretching sensation, you and your partner have not done enough to prepare you, or there is something wrong and you may need to see a doctor– you could have something like vaginisimus.
The hymen is a coronal membrane located a few inches inside the vagina. Depending on the person, the “hole” in the hymen will have different shapes. The best thing about the hymen is that it is designed to stretch.
Take your time. Build up slowly. Don’t rush. Use lube.
I believe that this is information that everyone should have access to. There are many reasons for why “losing your virginity” is described in violent, graphic, painful terms and it’s not to help women, that’s for sure. These concepts are even more exacerbated in fundamentalist and evangelical circles, where teachers and leaders will seize upon anything to convince people why having sex is the worst thing ever and you should never ever do it– until you’re married, then it’s awesome. But all of that prevents girls like me and like the ones I knew from having any understanding of how our bodies actually work.
It’s not only scare tactics, it’s a lie.